Lessons from the Korean War & Nuclear Capable Missiles
Weekly Newsletters

Lessons from the Korean War & Nuclear Capable Missiles



17 December 2021




Dear Network Members and Colleagues,

This week, the APLN publishes an in-depth primer on nuclear missile capabilities in the Asia-Pacific written by Nick Hansen, national intelligence and image technology expert. We also feature a new special report by historian and scholar James Matray on the events leading the US entry into the Korean War and lessons for today. We highlight the upcoming final event in our ROK-Japan nuclear domino project, and member activities.





Nuclear-Capable Missiles in the Asia-Pacific




A new APLN primer by Nick Hansen assesses the nuclear missile delivery systems of the six nuclear-armed states in the Asia-Pacific region – the United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and the DPRK – tracing the evolution of the arsenals into a multiplicity of missile delivery systems currently deployed and under development.Highlights from the paper include:

  • Nuclear weapons-armed states in the Asia-Pacific region primarily rely on ballistic missiles to deliver nuclear warheads given their speed of delivery and geographical reach. 
  • India has developed and deployed long-range ballistic and cruise missiles and has an active space launch program. It is developing and testing its own hypersonic cruise missile with the help of Russia.
  • Russia’s Kanyon weapon system under development is designed to destroy naval bases, ports, and coastal cities with a two-megaton nuclear warhead detonated underwater. Not considered a true missile it is not covered by the New START Treaty.
  • China has developed a nuclear triad with the deployment of the Type-094 type nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) which carry JL-2 submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles. Six of these submarines are operational.
  • The DPRK is testing an intermediate-range submarine ballistic missile and modifying a conventionally powered submarine with three launch tubes for these missiles. This submarine is expected to be in the water in 2021/2022.  



Read Now

This report is part of APLN’s project assessing current WMD threats in the Asia-Pacific. You can read other special reports in this series on our website.





US Entry into the Korean War: Origins, Impact, and Lessons




A new APLN Special Report by James Matray looks back on the historical events that led to the US entry into the Korean War in 1950 and draws lessons from the use of nuclear weapons in a future conflict on the Korean peninsula.He argues that ultimately Truman’s reasons for acting to save the ROK after the DPRK staged its invasion on 25 June 1950 had little to do with concerns about Korea or its people. Truman’s decision to commit U.S. combat troops in the Korean War was largely the product of his perception that the struggle was analogous to events in the 1930s. However, containment in Korea sought to counter the Soviet threat with a limited commitment of U.S. power.

He concludes that a new Korean War is improbable because United States has made it clear that it will respond to a new DPRK assault on the ROK with all of the military might at its disposal. In addition:

  • The US commitment to protect the ROK, both due to the presence of its own troops stationed there, and its treaty responsibilities.
  • DPRK nuclear weapons are intended to deter a US/ROK attack, not for offensive purposes such as attacking ROK.
  • The Soviet Union is no longer there to support the DPRK, and China is unlikely to help in the event of a DPRK invasion.
  • The DPRK’s current conventional military capabilities are not sufficient to overwhelm the ROK in the way it did in 1950.



Read Now

This report is a part of a joint project on Reducing the Risk of Nuclear Weapon Use in Northeast Asia (NU-NEA) with the Nautilus Institute, the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (RECNA), and the Panel on Peace and Security of North East Asia (PSNA).





Coping with Nuclear Domino in Northeast Asia :
Roundtable for Political Leaders of Japan and South Korea




Next Monday 20 December, the third and final event in a project assessing a nuclear domino in Northeast Asia will take place. The joint Sejong Institute-Pugwash Japan and APLN project has focused on South Korean and Japanese responses to the DPRK’s nuclear capabilities, with special consideration to the risks of these two countries developing their own nuclear weapons.

The event will take place from 13:00-18:00 PM (KST) and feature keynote remarks from APLN members Chung-in Moon (South Korea), Tatsujiro Suzuki (Japan), and Peter Hayes (Australia). The event will take place in hybrid online and offline format at Yonsei University in Seoul from 13:00-18:00 PM (KST).

The Nuclear Domino project is supported by the Open Society Foundations.



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Public Communication on Nuclear Deterrence and Disarmament and Unhinged Leaders and Nuclear Weapons
This week, APLN research adviser, Tanya Ogilvie-White published two book chapters: one in “Alliances, Nuclear Weapons and Escalation
Managing Deterrence in the 21st Century” where she advocates that Australia supports No-First-Use policy and in “The Nuclear Ban Treaty A Transformational Reframing of the Global Nuclear Order” (edited by APLN member Ramesh Thakur) where she discusses how the Trump presidency highlighted the dangers posed by nuclear weapons everywhere, not just in so-called ‘rogue states’.




Hiroshima Round Table 2021 Public Webinar
On 22 December, APLN board member Gareth Evans will participate in a public webinar hosted by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and Hiroshima Prefecture, where they present their joint research report “New Technologies and Nuclear Disarmament.” Sign up here




A new road map for Xi’s political future
On 14 December, APLN Member Shyam Saran published a column for Business Standard where he discussed the road to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China and the economic challenges faced by China. Read more


















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